Ukraine. In 2013, Ukraine ended up in a major political power struggle between the Russian Federation and the EU, ending in revolutionary moods in Kiev, where hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded that the president resign and the country sign free trade and association agreements with the EU.
According to Countryaah, Ukraine and the EU’s negotiated agreement had been postponed in 2011, when former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of power, according to the EU a political verdict. The dispute over Tymoshenko persecuted the EU and President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013.
Tymoshenko’s case was complicated when in January she was suspected of having ordered a murder of a Member of Parliament and a business competitor in 1996. At the same time, President Yanukovych in the spring pardoned Tymoshenko’s former co-workers, the former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, who was also sentenced to prison for abuse of power. The former environment minister was also pardoned, but according to Yanukovych, Tymoshenko could not get mercy because there were legal proceedings against her.
Ukraine’s plans to sign an agreement with the EU in November led to growing pressure from the Russian Federation, which instead wanted the country to enter into a customs union with the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan. While the EU called for further reform of the judiciary and electoral system to sign the agreement, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin came to Ukraine in June and offered the Customs Union without adapting any laws. At the same time, more or less disguised threats were presented about the difficulties that would affect Ukraine’s trade with the Russian Federation if the country chose the path towards the EU. When Putin left Kiev in June, the Russian federation halted imports of Ukraine’s most popular chocolate. According to Russian health inspectors, the factories did not meet modern hygiene requirements.
During the autumn, a draft EU agreement was ready, and the pressure of the Russian Federation hardened. In September, Russian Gazprom demanded that Ukraine pay its gas supply debt immediately. Gazprom had earlier demanded $ 7 billion earlier in the year, a claim that Ukraine rejected as incorrect. The demand had come after the Ukrainian company Naftogaz concluded an agreement with Shell on the extraction of Ukraine’s large shale gas reserves, an agreement intended to reduce dependence on the increasingly expensive Russian gas.
The atmosphere hardened between Moscow and Kiev, and in November Ukraine ceased its import of Russian gas. The year before, the country had received gas from the west, from Hungary and from Germany, Russian gas exported back east to Ukraine. Now Ukraine is negotiating to get even greater quantities of gas from the West via pipelines in Slovakia.
The population was divided on EU agreements. In the Russian-speaking areas in the east, most wanted closer cooperation with the Russian Federation, and in the more western-friendly areas in the west, support for EU cooperation was strong. President Yanukovych seemed to want to strike a balance and achieve the benefits of approaching the EU without irritating the Russian Federation and jeopardizing trade and energy supplies.
Parliament amended the legislation on several points to meet EU requirements. But the EU also demanded that Julia Tymoshenko be released from prison, a claim that President Yanukovych rejected. Instead, he proposed a law that would allow prisoners to receive medical care abroad. Parliament prepared such a law, in practice a way to release Tymoshenko from prison. The proposal was tabled in several parts but voted down by Parliament’s majority, with Yanukovych’s ruling Regions Party, one week before the EU summit in Vilnius in November. The government then canceled work on an EU agreement. The EU blamed the Russian Federation and condemned Moscow’s actions, which it considered threatening. Yanukovych, in turn, was critical of the EU, saying that Ukraine’s demands were too harsh.
Ukraine’s no-EU agreement triggered disappointment and anger among the EU-friendly population. Protesters went out in the hundreds of thousands at Independence Square in Kiev, with EU flags and slogans against Yanukovych. Many of the protesters were students, and they demanded that the government change and sign agreements with the EU. They were supported by the imprisoned Julia Tymoshenko, who went on a hunger strike and declared that she would not eat until there was an agreement with the EU. Yanukovych attended the EU summit in Vilnius, where he received criticism from EU leaders but said he was still hoping for an agreement in the near future.
When the summit was over, the police force hit hard on the protesters in Kiev, many people were injured and many were arrested. Despite the violence, protests grew with demands for Yanukovych’s departure and an agreement between Ukraine and the EU. In early December, revolutionary sentiments in Kiev, with hundreds of thousands of protesters, reportedly outnumbered the 2004 orange revolution. President Yanukovych defied the protests and traveled to Beijing and Moscow to discuss financial and political support. It brought hundreds of thousands of protesters together again, while opposition representatives held talks with Yanukovych. He returned to Moscow, where President Vladimir Putin promised $ 15 billion in credit and about 30 percent cheaper gas that would save Ukraine’s economy from disintegration.
When one of the country’s most active regime-critical journalists was subjected to severe abuse, tens of thousands of protesters gathered for this year’s last major protest in Kiev.
The year had begun in domestic political contradictions, with the opposition blocking Parliament’s work in protest of government policy. At the same time, a member of Julia Tymoshenko’s party was deprived of her parliamentary seat by the court, accused of having worked as a lawyer, which is not allowed for elected officials. However, he claimed he was convicted innocent.
The European Court of Justice declared during the year that the arrest of Tymoshenko before the trial against her in 2007 was illegal. The European Court of Justice would later review the prison sentence against Tymoshenko. At the request of the EU, the government presented a bill banning discrimination against employees due to sexual orientation. But the opposition in Parliament was too great. In addition, a planned gay couple failed to obtain a permit, according to the court because of the risk of unrest.
A former senior official and general of the Interior Ministry were sentenced during the year for the murder of journalist Georgij Gongadze in 2000. The general received a life sentence. The case of the kidnapped and murdered journalist in his time contributed to the resignation of former President Leonid Kuchma in 2004. Kuchma has been accused of having ordered the murder.
During the year Swedish Swedbank discontinued its operations in Ukraine. The bank entered the Ukrainian market in 2007 when it was considered that the growth potential was great. But instead the business developed into a loss business of about SEK 11 billion.